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greed for money. Thus began the first warping of Georg Cantor's
acutely sensitive mind. Instead of rebelling, as a gifted boy
to-day might do with some hope of success, Georg submitted
till it became apparent even to the obstinate father that he was
wrecking his son's disposition. But in the process of trying to
please his father against the promptings of his own instincts
Georg Cantor sowed the seeds of the self-distrust which was to
make him an easy victim for Kronecker's vicious attack in later
life and cause him to doubt the value of his work. Had Cantor
been brought up as an independent human being he would
never have acquired the timid deference to men of established
reputation which made his life wretched.
The father gave hi when the mischief was already done. On
Georg's completion of his school course with distinction at the
age of seventeen, he was permitted by 'dear papa' to seek a
university career in mathematics. *My dear papa!' Georg writes
in his boyish gratitude: 'You can realize for yourself how greatly
your letter delighted me. The letter fixes my future.. . . Xow I
am happy when I see that it will not displease you if I follow my
feelings in the choice. I hope you will live to find joy in me, dear
father; since my soul, my whole being, lives in my vocation;
what a man desires to do, and that to which an inner compulsion
drives him, tbat will he accomplish!' Papa no doubt deserves a
vote of thanks, even if Georg's gratitude is a shade too servile
for a modern taste.
Cantor began his university studies at Zurich in 1862, but
migrated to the University of Berlin the following year, on the
death of his father. At Berlin he specialized in mathematics,
philosophy, and physics. The first two divided his interests
about equally; for physics he never had any sure feeling. In
mathematics his instructors were Kummer, Weierstrass, and
his future enemy Kronecker. Following the usual German
custom, Cantor spent a short time at another university, and
was in residence for one semester of 1866 at Gottingen.
With Kuinrner and Kronecker at Berlin the mathematical
atmosphere was highly charged with arithmetic. Cantor made a
profound study of the Disquisitiones Arithmeticae of Gauss and
wrote his dissertation, accepted for the Ph,D. degree in 1887,